Director's Message: Can you serve and be profitable?

March 10, 2014
Sometimes our caring and love for our patients dims the fact that dentistry and dental hygiene are businesses!

If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard, “I just want to practice hygiene and forget about the money issues of the practice …”

Dental hygiene and dentistry are service professions. We are care providers. Most oral health professionals will readily accept one of the main reasons they find meaning in their work is because they enjoy helping people. Many of us take pleasure from comparing the "before" and "after" pictures of a “gross debridement” and a healthy smile. Our efforts are doubly rewarded when patients remember to express their gratitude for our skillful contributions. It feels terrific to be of service to others.


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Patients say thank you in several distinctive ways; they make us cakes, candies, chocolates, candles, write thank-you notes, and even, depending on the generation, want to “tip” you. Additionally, from a business perspective, patients also express their value in the service you provide by promptly paying their bill.

Sometimes our caring and love for our patients dims the fact that dentistry and dental hygiene are businesses! Think about when you buy or lease a home, buy a car, undertake a surgery or medical procedure, or even purchase an airline ticket it involves more than just a verbal agreement or a promise and a prayer from the aforementioned mortgage company that you will honor your payments.

Your place of employment is no different, and providing your patients with options for financing their dentistry is not different. When working with fantastic groups and teams, my curiosity arises when professionals allow so many of their patients receive such magnificent restorative and preventive care with nothing more than a verbal agreement?

We're learning that our professional success depends on much more than our clinical expertise. It also depends heavily upon our ability to remain economically viable, so that we can continue to deliver quality services to our patients and enjoy the emotional and financial rewards we deserve. What has made profitability such an awkward issue in the profession of dental hygiene? What other business expects to survive without receiving fair compensation for the distribution of quality services? Why has money become such a guilt-ridden word?

Perhaps we have come to equate concern for money with lack of caring, lack of meaning, and even lack of soul. That is nothing but utter crap! From my study in meaning of life and meaning of work literature, there is not a conflict between caring, helping people, being spiritual, and having a successful business, career, and/or monetary gain.

If you truly appreciate the services you offer to your patients and are performing “great” work in the world, it is your professional responsibility to make your best available to as many people as possible. By improving your systems, by empathetically communicating with patients, by assisting them to maximize their insurance benefits, and by creating realistic financial plans we open the door to quality service for many who could never before get, desire, or afford our services.

And before the emails begin to rain, I am not advocating dental hygienists must be crossed trained neither in all financial systems nor to manage all financial conversations. Providing care is your passion — career sweet spot. What I offer is to pause and observe your reaction to money conversations within your place of business, whether it is a dental practice, corporate environment, your own business, or a nonprofit. Acknowledging your feelings around money conversations and then juxtapose that to: How might your patients feel when discussing financial issues. What’s your gut check? Do you make your patients feel a little like they are being “sent to the principal’s office” every time the subject of finances comes up?

Clarity, caring, and our detachment from our own emotional money challenges can become keys of our successful financial dealings (in the office and out).

Kristine A. Hodsdon RDH, MSEC
Director, RDH eVillage

Kristine’s Disclosures: Kristine’s website is, and she is a consultant and trainer with Pride Institute.